Oxford History: City Wall


North wall: Section between Ship Street and Broad Street

Broad Street was just outside the city, and the line of the north wall is preserved by the boundary separating properties on the north side of Ship Street from those on the south side of Broad Street.

There used to be a lane outside the city wall, and then a deep man-made moat or ditch (known as the Candida Fossa or Canditch) which ran along the back of the present shops on the south side of Broad Street and also along the present George Street, thus completing a circuit of flowing water around the city walls.

Bastion 4

This bastion, which survives at the rear of 2 Ship Street, is not easy to view, but can sometimes be seen if Boswell's in Broad Street has the gate of their yard open. This used to be a highlight of the train ride of the Oxford Story that operated from the current Mountain Warehouse next to Boswell's between 1986 and 2007. The area behind the shop has been reclaimed by Jesus College and they call it the Bastion breakout area. It is a Grade I listed structure (List Entry No. 1184408).


Known as the Martyr’s bastion, it may mark the spot where Cranmer stood to observe the burning of Ridley and Latimer nearby in Broad Street.

The engraving below shows this bastion in 1834, when it was visible from Miss Hoskyns’s garden in Broad Street/ (The 1841 duly census shows Miss Hoskins [sic] living at the south-west end of Broad Street.)

Miss Hoskins' bastion


Bastion 5

This survives at the rear of 14–15 Ship Street and is part of appropriately named Tower House Hotel. It is easily viewed from the outdoor seating area behind Morton’s Café at 22 Broad Street. It is a Grade II listed structure (List Entry No. 1047090).

The photograph below was taken from The Hub in Turl Street (where part of the city wall is visible from the men’s toilet).

Wall behind Morton's

Twirling postern gate

At the end of Ship Street was the twirling postern gate in the wall (designed to keep cattle out of the town) that gave Turl Street its name. It was demolished in 1722.

East of Turl Street

The continuation of the wall to the south of Broad Street after the junction with Turl Street has completely disappeared because of the large and important buildings that were built straddling its line, namely Exeter College, the Museum of the History of Science, and the Sheldonian Theatre.

From the southern end of the Sheldonian, the wall travelled north-east to meet Catte Street at Smith Gate.

Next: Smith Gate in Catte Street Next

© Stephanie Jenkins

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